Who got that job?

February 13, 2004

Christopher Johnson, 50
Job advertised in The Times Higher , June 23, 2003

Motorvariation
Head/Professor of Industrial Design

£40,176 - £45,072 / £40,176 - £55,858 per annum

Slipping between the worlds of industry and academia mid-career is not an easy option, mainly because neither side is sure about what to expect. When Christopher Johnson first looked at the job spec for a head/professor of industrial design at Coventry University, he didn't know if he even qualified. "I am a practical designer and not an academic," he says.

But Mike Tovey, dean of the School of Art and Design, takes another view.

"Authority in industrial design comes from either scholarship or the real world. Coventry has an international reputation in auto design. The problem is that our salaries don't match what design studios can offer," he says.

Tovey says the timing coincided with a reduction in activity in auto design. "We got some good applications," he says.

Johnson was looking for a new challenge. "The job offered an opportunity to go down avenues I wouldn't have been able to in industry and to reshape and structure things in industrial design education."

The school was looking for someone with a good record in automotive design.

Johnson had worked for Volvo, Rover, Ford and Peugeot.

He says the day-long interview was odd. "I'd been a freelance consultant for 20 years and work comes from your reputation." He adds: "I'm learning the processes of academic boards and committees. I run 17 lecturers.

Retirements mean we've got good people replacing them from industry.

Universities need to look at commercial aspects. I'm talking a lot with industry to bring in work and money."

He is also considering doing a PhD.

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